New Zealand must follow Australia's lead and set up a new aged-care watchdog to protect the vulnerable elderly, Grey Power says.

Legislation introduced in Canberra will establish a new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to crack down on widespread failures in rest home care.

In New Zealand, both Labour and the Green Party went into the election with policy to set up a similar watchdog.

A week before the election David Clark, now Health Minister, said the new Aged Care Commissioner would be provided for in a Labour-led Government's first Budget.

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However, that didn't happen - surprising and disappointing Grey Power, who worked with both parties before the election to detail significant problems in the sector.

The organisation's national president, Mac Welch, said it was a major priority, given the sometimes horrifying cases of substandard care and abuse.

"The Commissioner must have legal powers, and powers of enforcement.

"The Australians have obviously recognised that their system is weak in that area, and they are creating such an office. And funding it rather generously."

In June a Grey Power delegation went to Parliament, but couldn't get an appointment with the Health Minister.

They did meet NZ First leader and Deputy PM Winston Peters, who told them Labour and Green Party policy was not coalition government policy.

"I said to him, 'Well, hang on, do you support the creation of the office of the Aged Care Commissioner?' And he said, yes, they would," Welch said.

"They are spending money like water, and a thing like this which they have firmly committed to, we would expect to see that occur in the next Budget. And I have reinforced that with Winston Peters, who said New Zealand First would support the creation of such an office."

Consumer and health advocates are also pressing for the Government to update voluntary aged care standards and making them mandatory.

Peters said NZ First didn't have a policy about an Aged Care Commissioner, but he was happy to put it on the caucus agenda for discussion.

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa has been approached for comment.

A Herald investigation earlier this year found a third of the country's 651 aged-care facilities have had recent shortcomings related to resident care.

Residents have died from festering bedsores, and in one case a family found maggots hatching in their father's sores.

Other issues include a lack of food and incontinence supplies and a 95-year-old forced to sleep in a recliner chair for 24 days because an adjustable bed wasn't available.

The Australian changes include AUS$90m over four years to bring 2700 aged care homes up to tougher standards, and faster action on complaints and audit findings.